Ashes showed up at the Conservatory in the spring of 2010. He had scratches and scabs all over his face. He had obviously been in a fight. We took him to our vet (the most wonderful vet in the world) so she could get him all cleaned up. Whenever a new cat with no signs of being “owned” shows up at the Conservatory, we have the vet give him or her a full exam, any medical attention needed, a full panel of shots and flea treatment, their shots, and neuter them; then we let them go again– our own little neighborhood Trap-Neuter-Release program, our attempt to control the local feral cat population.
As a result of Ashes’ examination, we learned that Ashes was FIV+. This was our first experience with an FIV+ cat. Aside from his superficial face wounds and being FIV+, he was completely healthy. Many times, when an FIV+ cat arrives at the vet, the vet recommends the cat be put to sleep so that it does not contribute to the spread of the disease. (FIV is similar to HIV– it spreads via body fluids like semen and blood so it is spread when cats mate or fight.) We did not feel okay about putting to sleep a seemingly healthy cat, so Ashes came to live at the Conservatory.
Ashes has his own room so that he does not spread FIV to other cats, and so he is relatively protected from pathogens himself. Like HIV, FIV can remain dormant in the system for quite some time. At some point, Ashes may develop AIDS-like problems which would dampen the ability of his immune system to fight off infections. But, for now (it’s been about 7 years!), he is quite happy and healthy!
For a while, Ashes’ belly and the backs and insides of his legs seemed to be bothering him quite a bit and he licked most of the hair off. We typically use a wheat litter, and we thought it was possible that he was allergic to the litter. We switched to a corn litter and, voila! Ashes stopped the incessant grooming and his hair grew back! Sometimes good cat care just takes a bit of creative problem-solving.
Ashes seems to have some seasonal allergies, as well. We open his windows whenever the weather is nice. He loves to keep an eye on all the bird and squirrel activity in the yard. But sometimes, he gets little bumps on his head that have been deemed by the vet to be allergic reactions. They don’t seem to bother him, and they eventually go away. It’s worth a few bumps to have the stimulation of the sights, sounds, and smells of the outside world.
Ashes is very cuddly and playful. We make sure he gets lots of interaction so he’s not too lonely living by himself.